In January last year, about 100 people were evacuated from their homes and millions of rands worth of damage was done to vineyards as fires, fanned by strong winds, spread across the mountains in the Bainskloof Pass near Wellington. Western Cape fire fighters appealed to both landowners and the public to be alert and ready to prevent wild fires and avoid disaster.
Most regions in South Africa are situated in naturally fire prone ecosystems. Inland, during winter, landowners prepare for devastating blazes that are fuelled by dry vegetation and strong winds. The forestry industry, in particular, is extremely vulnerable to wild fires. In the past 25 years, South Africa has lost an average of 14,000 hectares each year of forested areas to runaway fires.
According to Bronson Gunter, General Manager of Product Support at Husqvarna South Africa, in recent years increased frequency and devastation of forest fires has become a worldwide trend. “Clearly, this means we need increasingly innovative ways to prevent and control fires. However, we also need to be aware of the basics and it has been proven that the use of fire breaks are by far the most effective means of dealing with fires and preventing disasters.” It is no surprise then that, by law in South Africa, every landowner must prepare and maintain fire breaks.
Gunter pointed out that, true to its reputation as an industry leader in the area of product research and development and as an innovator when it comes to providing effective solutions for the forestry sector, Husqvarna was aware that creating fire breaks was not only an extremely difficult, high risk exercise but also costly and labour intensive.
“We set out to find a less labour-intensive answer to controlling the burning of fire breaks than the traditional method of using rakes and fire beaters. The answer clearly lay in the speed and efficiency of mechanized equipment. That is why Husqvarna’s introduction of the 580BTS Blower into the South African market has elevated fire control to the next level and it undoubtedly makes a difference,” he said.
Introducing the Husqvarna 580BTS Blower
The Husqvarna 580BTS is one of the most powerful commercial backpack blowers in the market. The tube mounted throttle control makes it easy for the operator to regulate air flow while innovative fan design and a powerful X-Torq® engine result in impressive air flow and high air speed. The X-Torq® engine design reduces harmful exhaust emissions by up to 75 percent and increases fuel efficiency by up to 20 percent. The Husqvarna 580BTS’s fuel pump is specially designed for easy starting while the commercial grade air filter ensures longer operating times and trouble free use. In addition, it is ergonomically designed with the operator’s comfort in mind, with an adjustable soft-grip handle, a load reducing harness with wide shoulder straps and a hip belt to ensure that it is easier to carry and operate for long periods.
An Effective and Versatile Solution
The 580BTS Blower had been put through its paces in a variety of different fire control and fire break preparation applications. “After extensive product trials, Husqvarna’s 580BTS Blower surpassed expectations. With an air-flow speed of 329 kilometres per hour combined with a volume capacity of more than 25.7 cubic metres per second, it was effective in preventative fire control as well as in the extinguishing of small or short grass fires, either directly or from the rear,” Gunter explained.
Husqvarna recommends that fire control teams comprise at least two operators so that the fire can be controlled from different directions. Once the operator is ready to clear or control the burn, the blower’s nozzle is directed at the base of the fire, starving it of oxygen and fuel.
By standing a few meters behind the fire and blowing half-throttle in the direction the operator wishes the fire to move, the 580BTS can fuel a wet or slow burning fire and successfully control a burn in the desired direction, an especially useful application for creating trace line fire breaks. It is in the removal of the fuel component prior to burning where the 580BTS comes into its own.
“With the blower at full throttle and the nozzle close to the ground, the operator can navigate through the trees, clearing loose debris and channeling this away from the fire break. This opens a clean round break at the base of tree, protecting the bark from the fire. Cleaning debris from around trees would ordinarily be a more time consuming task without the use of a blower,” he said.
The bigger picture
According to Gunter, the use of the Husqvarna 580BTS is not only an effective means of creating fire breaks but is also environmentally friendly. “This is the best of both worlds. Not only is the 580BTS a more commercially viable solution but it is one that allows all stakeholders in the forestry sector to contribute towards making this sector more eco friendly.
For more information on Husqvarna, visit www.husqvarna.co.za